The WCC UK condemns all acts, including speech, which demonstrate Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and similar discrimination. We find abhorrent attempts made by public figures and extremist groups to associate these with our discipline. Classicists have a responsibility to reckon with our field’s history and to acknowledge the ways in which it has been and continues to be used as a tool to create, perpetuate, and justify discrimination of various kinds. Racism and elitism must not be part of our vision for the discipline’s future.
We support Classics for All as they review their association with Boris Johnson, who is currently one of the charity’s patrons. This is not the first time that objections have been made to Johnson’s status as flag-bearer for the discipline and many classicists have not seen him as a public ally. Despite his best attempts to position himself as a positive asset to the field, as a discipline we must now recognise his conduct is appalling, and that association with him is in direct conflict with attempts to recover classics from an exclusionary and discriminatory elite.
We call on all bodies associated with classics to take this opportunity to consider those we ask to act as patrons and ambassadors for our subject. While Johnson may be an extreme case, the public statements and behaviour of others who align themselves with classics are increasingly at odds with our discipline as we understand and promote it. Equally, a board of patrons or supporters consisting primarily of white privileged individuals does not encourage those who do not see themselves represented to think that classics is for them.
The WCC UK has a long-standing goal to advance equality and diversity in Classics, and we acknowledge that there is a long way to go, including in our own ranks. We urge all relevant bodies to diversify and expand the range of those who advocate for them, and to show that there is a strong inclusive voice for classics at work in the UK.
The WCC UK supports a classics without white fragility, in which people of all backgrounds and circumstances flourish and thrive. We invite all those able to take action towards this goal to join us in making this happen.